Premium vs. Regular Gas: Understanding the Difference

a man refilling as silver vehicle with gas

The best type of gasoline to buy will depend on your vehicle. Filling your gas tank comes with two options: regular or premium gas. However, you shouldn’t base your choice solely on their prices. Some cars require premium gas to achieve optimum performance, while for others, having regular gas is enough to meet the car’s demands. Understanding the difference between premium vs. regular gas is essential in choosing what’s right for your vehicle. 

What is Premium Gas?

Premium gas is a type of gasoline with a high octane level — usually rated 91 or 93. Meanwhile, regular gas has an octane rating of 87 or below. Gasoline with the highest octane rating is often called supreme gas or super-premium gasoline. 

Octane ratings measure the gasoline’s ability to prevent pre-ignition, which causes knocking sounds and could potentially damage the engine. 

Using premium gas in high-performance engines is ideal due to its resistance to pre-ignition and ability to keep your engine functioning optimally. 

What is the Difference Between Premium and Regular Gasoline?

The main difference between premium and regular gas lies in their octane level. As mentioned in the previous section, premium gas has a higher octane level than regular gas. The higher the octane rating, the lower the likelihood that internal combustion engines will fire at the wrong time. 

High-performance vehicles, such as luxury class vehicles and some SUVs, have a higher compression ratio or turbochargers and need premium gas to ensure proper engine combustion and fuel efficiency. Premium gasoline is also more expensive than regular gas. However, this does not make regular gas any less good.  

The majority of cars you see on the road nowadays use regular gas, and they run just fine. Today’s regular or “unleaded” gasoline already contains EPA-mandated additives that keep your engine running cleanly and smoothly. Other than octane level and the price, there’s really not much difference between the two gasoline. 

How Premium and Regular Gasoline Affect Your Car

Essentially, the difference in gas types is appreciated depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Using regular gas in high-performance vehicles increases the possibility of engine knocking, leading to damaged pistons, cylinder linings, and ultimately, the entire engine. 

On the other hand, using premium gas on a car that doesn’t require it, chances are you paid more for something that has no added benefit. It will not damage your engine, but it doesn’t make it better either. For your engine to run at its best and improve fuel efficiency, you should always follow the octane level recommendation of your owner’s manual.  

That said, keep in mind that detergent additives in your gasoline alone can keep the engine clean and optimize performance, making them far more necessary than octane levels. Also, automakers are now equipping the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) of their newer vehicles with sensors to monitor different octane levels and adjust accordingly. 

Meaning, you can safely use regular gas in high-performance engines temporarily. But do not attempt to do this regularly as it may still cause pre-ignition over time. 

Is Premium Gasoline Better Than Regular Gasoline?

While premium gasoline has a higher octane rating and is more expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. Regular gas can more than hold its own in making an engine perform at its best, except, of course, for high-performance engines. There’s no need to use premium gasoline if your vehicle doesn’t require it. It will cost you more, but your engine’s performance will remain the same. 

Nevertheless, if you’re driving a Buick Regal or Nissan Maxima, it is better to use premium gasoline. Vehicles like these have features that can only run at their best when using premium gas. And using regular gas on these cars can lower their performance and fuel efficiency. 

How to Decide Between Premium vs. Regular Gas

Per Recommendation

When choosing between premium vs. regular gas, knowing the difference in gas grades can help you make an informed decision. But if you don’t have prior knowledge regarding gasoline, referring to your owner’s manual is the best approach. 

Ability to Clean Engine

Some drivers insist on using premium gas, thinking it can make their engines cleaner. Just so we’re clear: High octane ratings do not make engines cleaner; they only make fuel less combustible. Furthermore, regular gas also contains detergents that may keep your engine clean. 

Fuel Efficiency

In terms of fuel efficiency, following the recommended octane level for your vehicle may help you spend less on fuel. Using lower octane gasoline on high-performance vehicles burns fuel faster. It might be cheaper, but it will cost you more in the long run. 

Related: What To Do If You Run Out Of Gas


Premium and regular gasoline have their own advantages which depend on the type of vehicle you are using. In other words, no one gasoline is ultimately better than the other. What is important is that you choose the fuel that meets the demands of your engine. 

If your car requires premium gas and you choose regular gas because it’s cheaper, chances are, you’ll be spending more on future engine repairs. If you choose premium gasoline because you’re under the impression that it cleans your engine better, you’re probably just throwing money away. 

To be sure, refer to your owner’s manual for the appropriate type of fuel your vehicle needs. However, if your manual states “recommended” instead of “required,” then you can safely use regular gasoline to lower your fuel cost.   

With any price hike in gasoline, using any means to cut back on fuel expenses is necessary. Knowledge on saving gas while driving may come in handy, especially during times of crisis. You don’t want to run out of fuel while on the road.